Better Makers: Court Theatre Gala Raises $300K For Artistic and Educational Programming in Chicagoland

The evening of June 10 came alive with music and dancing at the Court Theatre’s gala — held at Venue West. The event was in full swing with guests celebrating and grooving late into the night, and it served as the culmination of what has undoubtedly been a banner year for the theatre. 

The theme of this year’s gala — Play, In Three Acts — reflected the sense of joyful community and gathered supporters together to celebrate the Court’s 2022 Regional Theatre Tony Award. The gala also recognized Barbara Franke and Lorna Ferguson, both long-standing Court trustees, as well as Audrey Petty, director of the Sojourner Scholars program at Illinois Humanities. All of the honorees were in attendance, in addition to members of the theatre’s Board of Trustees, University of Chicago faculty and administrators, artists and theatre enthusiasts. Dana Levinson, Chief Program Officer for the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, and Andrea Sáenz, President and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, chaired the event. Notable guests included Lieutenant Governor of Illinois Juliana Stratton, Field Foundation of Illinois President Daniel O. Ash, and Executive Director of the American Library Association, Tracie D. Hall. The event was generously sponsored by The Chicago Community Trust and the Field Foundation of Illinois

Barbara Franke and Lorna Ferguson | Photo by John Zich

The proverbial first act, Cocktails With Antoinette, gave attendees the opportunity to take photos of themselves holding the Tony Award upon their arrival at the event. Most guests jumped at the chance to hold “Antoinette,” as Court staff refer to the Tony statuette. Guests mingled, sampled hors d’oeuvres and signature drinks, and viewed a number of vignettes comprised of props and costumes from past Court shows. These exquisite stage pieces — curated by Properties Manager Lara Musard — provided guests with a glimpse into the company’s storied production history. Attendees also bid on Silent Auction items that offered a variety of items and experiences, ranging from a Nick Cave print to a stay at an Italian villa.

Dana Levinson and Andrea Sáenz | Photo by John Zich

As the event transitioned into its second act, guests were then treated to a multi-course meal and remarks from Marilyn F. Vitale; Artistic Director Charles Newell; and Executive Director Angel Ysaguirre. The contributions of honorees Barbara Franke, Lorna Ferguson and Audrey Petty were then acknowledged from the stage. Ron OJ Parson, Resident Artist and the Chicago Tribune’s Chicagoan of the Year for Theater, concluded the second act with an emotional toast, reflecting on Court’s artistic and community impact, its accomplishments and its future successes. 

Ron OJ Parson | Photo by John Zich

Act three, Have A Ball, kicked off with a performance from Mark J.P. Hood, a Chicago native, musician and theatrical artist who served as Director and Musical Director for Court’s production of The Gospel at Colonus. He led a rousing medley of gospel staples highlighting Chicago’s gospel history. Hood then led attendees to the dance floor, where they were greeted by tunes and remixes from DJ Tess. The dance party brought the evening to an exuberant conclusion — there was even a Soul Train line — and many guests commented on how much they enjoyed the event as they departed.

Miciah Lathan, Mark J.P. Hood and Kymbriel Lowe | Photo by John Zich

In all, the Court gala was a rousing success, raising over $300,000 to support the theatre’s artistic initiatives and educational programming. Court Theatre would like to thank all the attendees, honorees and sponsors who brought this year’s gala to life. Thank you for your continued support and partnership, and thank you for making Play, In Three Acts a night to remember!

Photo by John Zich

Court Theatre is the Tony Award–winning professional theatre of the University of Chicago, dedicated to innovation, inquiry, intellectual engagement and community service. Functioning as the University’s Center for Classic Theatre, Court and its artists mount theatrical productions and audience enrichment programs in collaboration with faculty. These collaborations enable a reexamination of classic texts that pose the enduring and provocative questions that define the human experience.

Consider donating to Court Theatre to make their artistic endeavors and community impact go even further!

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